Eleanor Harley

Malatiah Luce, of Martha’s Vineyard married a woman named Eleanor Harley or Harlow. Everything I’ve found about her online comes directly or indirectly from Charles Edward Banks’ 3-volume History of Martha’s Vineyard (1901, 1966):

59. Malatiah(3) Luce, (Thomas(2), Henry(1)), b. 1710; res. T., husbandman; m. Eleanor Harley (or Harlow) 5 July 1738, who was b. 1715 and d.  18 Feb. 1787. He d. 3 May 1801. (Banks 3:255).

I’ve pushed a bit from time to time to see if I could take the line further. It seemed to me she was probably really a Harlow because there was a Harlow connection on the Vineyard. I never found anything but I spun some good theories. And, predictably, many people copied my texts without attribution.

About a year ago I tried again. This time scrapping my old theories and starting from scratch.

I already had an extract of the two records on which Banks based his information. Tisbury Vital Records shows Elenor Harley and Malatiah Luce, married 5 July 1738, and Elanor, w. Meltiah, [died] Feb. 18, 1787, in 73d y.

Tisbury Marriages

So we see the primary source says she was a Harley. Banks must have had the same thought I did, that she might really have been a Harlow.

If we calculate her birth from her death it looks like she should be born 1712/13, even though Banks says 1715. Doesn’t really matter. Some play in the dates wouldn’t be unusual.

I was blown away to find, almost immediately, a simple and direct record of an Eleanor who is probably her: Elenor, christened 17 August 1712 in Boston, daughter of Robert Harley and Elinor. This must be the Robert Harley and Eliner Kerr who were married in Boston on 15 November 1711 by Cotton Mather.

Second Church of Boston

That’s it then. Now we can move to looking for her parents’ ancestries.

Old Theory

Here is the last iteration of my old research on Eleanor’s ancestry. An earlier version presented a theory about how she might have been connected to the Plymouth Harlows. I touch on that theory here, and dismiss it.

Her ancestry is unknown. There are some speculations, but no evidence.
Although her marriage record calls her Elenor Harley (Tisbury Vital Records) it seems certain her name was Harlow rather than Harley. There was a Harlow family on Martha's Vineyard but no other references to a Harley family in this area. Moreover, her daughter Mary's first child was Harlow Crosby (born 15 December 1768).
Theories about her origin include the following:
She might have been an otherwise unknown daughter of (Deacon) Robert Harlow and Susanna Cole.
She might have been an otherwise unknown daughter of Benjamin Harlow, and a granddaughter of Sgt. William Harlow.
She might have been an otherwise unknown daughter of Thomas Harlock and Hannah.
She might have been an indentured servant from England.
It is widely believed Eleanor was one of the Plymouth Harlows and therefore a descendant of Sgt. William Harlow (FamilySearch (2017)) but there is no evidence. A genealogy of this family published in NEHGR does not show an Eleanor (Adams 1860: 227-33), but is undocumented and contains known errors.
The Plymouth Harlows were connected with the Holmes and the Wests, two families who lived on the Vineyard a generation later. Rebecca Harlow of the Plymouth family married 1730 Jabez Holmes. His cousin John Holmes came to the Vineyard about 1757. Rebecca's nephew Robert Harlow married 1749 Jean West, of Tisbury, and Robert's brother James Holmes married 1757 Jerusha Holmes, who was niece of Jabez.
FamilySearch shows Eleanor as a daughter of Robert Harlow and Susanna Cole (2017), and therefore a sister of the Robert Harlow who married Jean West, and of the James Harlow who married Jerusha Holmes. The relationship is problematic, however. The chronology is too tight. Eleanor is thought to have been born about 1714/15, which would make her about 23 at the time of her marriage and would tally with her death record, which says she was in her 73rd year. However, Robert Harlow and Susanna Cole weren't married until October 1717. They had their first child Ebenezer Harlow 16 months later, in April 1719. Their subsequent children follow the usual Puritan pattern of a child about every two years until 1752, with each birth duly recorded at Plymouth, and no child named Eleanor. There is no room for Eleanor in this family.
Justin Swanström, 11/1/2010, rev. 9/30/2017.


  • Adams, Theodore P. “The Harlow Family” in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 14(1860), pp. 227-33.
  • Banks, Dr. Charles E. The History of Martha’s Vineyard (Dukes Co. Hist. Soc., 1911, 1966).
  • “Family Tree,” database, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : modified 23 May 2017), entry for Eleanor Harley (https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LHJ6-TFB); contributed by various users.
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